Survey of top retailers: only one of 20 says they will eliminate peat this year

Survey of top retailers: only one of 20 says they will eliminate peat this year

Government voluntary target to stop peat compost sales was missed in 2020

The Wildlife Trusts call for an immediate end to peat sales

A new survey shows that only one of 20 leading garden retailers contacted by The Wildlife Trusts reported that it would eliminate peat from its shelves this year – and the survey reveals an overall lack of ambition by retailers to set targets to end peat sales. Last year, the voluntary target set by the Government to end sales of peat composts to amateur gardeners was missed.

This year the Government will decide if new legislation is needed to end peat use in the horticultural sector – but there is still no sign of their long-awaited peat strategy. The Wildlife Trusts are now calling for an immediate end to sales of peat compost – further delay will cause continued destruction of peatlands worldwide.

Calls to end peat use began over 30 years ago when people began to realise that peatlands are priceless – recognising them as precious places for wildlife, and more recently as habitats which capture and store carbon if managed well.

Some retailers are doing notably better in moving away from peat than others: of the 11 out of 20 retailers that responded to the survey, all now offer peat-free composts as part of their range, and none sell soil improvers or mulch containing peat. Travis Perkins and Wickes were the only two retailers to declare an end-date for peat sales – Travis Perkins by this year, and Wickes by 2025. But while a further few plan to end peat sales in the future, no dates have been specified and others have no clear commitments at all. Just four reported stocking ranges of peat-free plants.

Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts says:

“Our survey shows that most retailers’ approach to the voluntary ban on peat sales has been woeful – even though the industry has been aware of the problem for decades. The time for voluntary agreements is over – the sale of peat must end now. Countless promises have been broken, and targets missed with the result that precious peatland habitats are still being unnecessarily destroyed in the name of gardening.

“Peatlands are vital wildlife habitats and it’s absolutely crucial that they remain intact to help us tackle climate change. The Government can ensure that these important carbon stores function as nature intended by banning peat sales now.

“Only one leading retailer – Travis Perkins – is planning to eliminate peat from its shelves by 2021, whilst growers like Hillier demonstrate that you can produce compost and grow high-quality plants without peat. These retailers are to be congratulated, but we now need Government to make the rest follow their lead. The time for delay and excuses is over.”

The Wildlife Trusts’ survey found:

  • Around 90% of Travis Perkins’ compost sales were peat-free in 2020 and the retailer is planning to go 100% peat-free during 2021. Wickes plan to phase out peat by 2025. These were the only two in the survey who set a date for ending peat sales.
  • B&Q, Hillier, and the Blue Diamond group of Garden Centres said they were committed to phasing out peat completely but gave no date.
  • Asda, Lidl and others have set themselves targets to reduce peat sales, but not yet to end them. Asda will remove peat from their own-brand products by 2030.
  • Four retailers stock peat-free plants: B&Q, Blue Diamond group, Hillier and Asda.
  • Hillier’s tree production is already peat-free, and the company are aiming for production of all other plants across their nurseries to be peat-free for 2022.
  • Of those who gave details of their peat-free items, all are offering at least one peat-free compost, and as products containing peat are usually cheaper to buy, several are price-matching these so that eco-conscious customers are not disadvantaged.
  • Last year B&Q launched their new peat-free compost made with coir and other ingredients. Hillier garden centres also introduced their own peat-free compost, and will be selling ‘Bloomin’ Amazing’, the by-product from an anaerobic digestion plant that provides eco-friendly heat, gas and electricity to 56,000 homes in Dorset. Wickes are launching a new peat-free product this year.
  • Blue Diamond stores stock 22 different peat-free growing media products, some of which are trials of new items at selected stores.
  • Half of the retailers contacted did not reply, and some that did respond were unable to answer all our questions.

Ten years ago, the Government set a voluntary target for the horticulture sector to end sales to gardeners by 2020 and to end professional use of peat, for example, in plant growing, by 2030. As this approach has failed, The Wildlife Trusts now believe that retailers should end consumer peat compost sales immediately and the target for professional growers should be brought forward to 2025. Monitoring showed that in 2019, peat still made up over 40% by volume of the growing media sold in the retail sector despite the 2020 target, whilst total peat use in horticulture (retail, professional and export) stood at over 2 million cubic metres.

Investment in alternatives is required to help retailers move away from peat, and a ‘Responsible Sourcing Scheme’ has been established to ensure that alternatives don’t come with their own eco-problems. Peat-free composts are now more widely available than ever and many give excellent results, with good advice also available on making your own compost at home. This means that although peat extraction is by no means the only cause of damage to our peatlands, it is one of the easiest to prevent.  

The Wildlife Trusts ask people to show the Government that they care by taking a ‘peat free pledge’ at and also to support an immediate ban on peat-based products. Everyone is urged to check information on packaging to ensure that garden purchases are free of peat.

Editor's notes

Responses to The Wildlife Trusts’ survey of garden retailers







Sent a statement

"B&Q remain committed to phasing out peat across our supply chain"


Yes - but limited detail provided


No - Commitment, but no target date provided


(Previous commitments by B&Q to stop selling peat have not been delivered*)


Blue Diamond Group

Completed Questionnaire

"The Blue Diamond Group are committed to becoming peat-free"

Yes - initial aim to be 70-80% peat free

No - Commitment, but no target date provided


Sent a Statement

"Hillier are committed to working towards a peat free status across all areas of the business"

Yes - including production (i.e. all own-grown plants) to be 95% peat free for 2021, and 100% peat free for 2022.

No - Commitment, but no target date provided


Completed Questionnaire

"Homebase fully support the Government's commitment to phase out the use of peat in horticulture"

Yes - but limited detail provided

No - but are considering setting one

Travis Perkins

Completed Questionnaire

"Travis Perkins and are developing plans to transition to 100% peat-free during 2021"

Yes - in line with end-target

Yes - Developing plans to transition to 100% peat-free during 2021.


Completed Questionnaire

"Wickes will continue to grow our peat-free options with the commitment to remove peat from our products [by 2025]"

Yes - in line with end-target

Yes - Plan to remove peat from product ranges by 2025


Sent a Statement

"Tesco have plans in place with our key growers on how together we can reduce peat usage in our garden products"

Yes - plans in place with key growers / suppliers

No - aiming for "minimal usage in the future".


Completed Questionnaire

"Asda are continually looking at ways of reducing and removing peat usage within our business"

Yes - targets for own-brand products to contain no more than 20% peat by volume by 2025 and be peat-free by 2030.

No - but commitment to remove peat from own-brand products by 2030


Sent a Statement

"Lidl are looking at ways to further reduce the amount peat contained within the gardening products sold in our store"

Yes - have targets for peat reduction

No - have targets to reduce but not yet eliminate peat


Sent a Statement

"We currently have many peat-free products in branches, but currently there are no plans for us to completely stop selling products with peat in."



No - no further details provided



Meeting to discuss

"Aldi are currently in the process of looking to develop a Peat Policy ...relative to both peat in compost and peat as a growing media"

Yes - looking to develop targets

No - but are developing policy


The following leading garden retailers were also contacted but had not provided details by the time of publication: Dobbies, British Garden Centres Group, Wyvale Garden Centres, Gardenstoreonline, Klondyke & Strikes Garden Centres Group, Haskins Garden Centres, Suttons, Morrisons and Sainsburys.

Stockists were contacted in late December 2020 / early January 2021, and those who had not responded were reminded of the survey in early March 2021. The questionnaire asked for information on retailers’ peat policies & plans, peat use in growing media and other bagged items (composts, soil improvers and mulch), and peat use in plants. 

Supermarkets and DIY stores were asked as many were surveyed in the early 2000s; chains not prominent at the time such as Aldi were newly included. Garden centres with the greatest number of stores were selected, based upon information found from web searches (own websites or Horticulture Week), e.g. Dobbies have 68 stores, British Garden Centres 58 (including 37 Wyevale Stores), Blue Diamond have 37 stores, Klondyke & Strikes 22, etc.   

*In 2001 B&Q promised to stop selling peat within ten years – it has not happened. See report here.

The Royal Horticultural Society give advice on choosing peat-free products, or making your own compost at home. The gardening charity stopped selling peat-based bags of compost in 2019, and has pledged that its gardens, show displays and plant sales will be peat-free by 2025.

What are peatlands?

Peatlands – bogs and fens – are waterlogged, wetland landscapes where decaying plant material builds up over time to form peat. This happens very slowly, forming at a rate of around a millilitre per year – or in other words taking a thousand years to form a metre of peat. In the UK, peat is commercially extracted mainly from lowland raised bogs where mechanical methods can remove a metre or more of peat in a year, far faster than it can re-form. Extraction also often removes the active peat-forming layer at the surface of the bog in order to get to the deposits underneath, making recovery of the habitat afterwards extremely unlikely, without help. The UK’s peat bogs are home to rare and unusual wildlife like wading birds, carnivorous plants and beautiful dragonflies, all of which are at risk when their habitat is destroyed by peat extraction. UK bogs meet just part of the country’s demand, with much peat imported from Ireland and Europe, leaving a legacy of damaged bogs there too. Peatlands are the largest on-land store of carbon and are vital to our fight against climate change, with the UK’s peatland storing 3.2 billion tonnes of carbon. 

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